Oyster Boy Review 09  
  May 1998
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» Levee 67


Abilene Rising

Rich Ferguson

Perhaps it was the indelible body aroma of cotton candy and sawdust she acquired from those years working with the circus that attracted him to her in the first place. Or maybe it was how she went on about her experiences as a demolitions expert, a Zen Buddhist, and championship arm wrestler. Or maybe it was simply the way she looked standing there in the corner drinking her beer. Either way, from the first moment he saw her in the Melody Bar, he knew that she was the girl for him.

The A.M. radio crackled and hissed on account of the thunderstorm approaching from the east. Dark, heavy clouds concealed the slow swirl of sunrise along the far reaching edges of Texas flatland. For as far as he could see, every little rock alongside of the road, every blade of grass, every trail of dust kicked up by wind was a brief, beautiful thing he felt was emanating from his own heart—as if he were the seed that had given rise to all this limitlessness.

Deep ragged mantra of radio static as he drove into the head of the storm. Rain falling down hard on car like Godspeak. He rolled down the window, slowly sticking out his left arm. Letting the blood that covered it flow away. Letting the blood that covered it be carried away by all the things outside so much greater than he. Deep throbbing in his shoulder from bullet lodged inside. Hard burn somewhere near bone. He now bare-chested. T-shirt wrapped tight around wound. Blood soaked. Right hand still reflex keen on steering wheel—driving down highway. Leaning against the door, he stuck his head out the window. The taste of her blood still on his tongue before opening mouth. Catching raindrops. Spitting wildly. The deep red of her flowing down his face like the shedding of a strange skin. He brought his head back in the car and looked in the rear view mirror. Her body lay stretched out on the backseat. She lay there, silent, as all sounds of her screaming and thrashing anguish had stopped some half hour ago outside Lamesa.

Hell, even with a bullet in her gut she could still manage a striking pose. That was what he remembered the most about her that first night they met in the Melody Bar. The way she got him all lovesick and stupid in the knees by just standing there drinking her beer. She told him how she had worked with the circus for six years as a trick sharpshooter. Could knock the flame off a candle at a hundred feet. After that, she spent time travelling around, ending up in Ann Arbor where she studied Zen Buddhism, arm wrestling, and demolitions from a guy she met in a laundromat. He remembered how she pulled him close to her. The faint smell of cotton candy and sawdust mixed with sweat rising from her body like wild carnival spirits.

From there, everything was a blur. Gunfast trigger blue tattoo on air. A feeling now of having woken up from a dream. He. She. Now bullet ridden, bloody, and Abilene rising in the distance. Christ, he didn't even think of taking her serious when she said she wanted to start robbing banks for a living. But away they went. All the way from Fresno to Las Cruces—leaving behind a trail of hundred dollar bills, booze, and blues. Things had gone pretty well until the botched convenience store job in Seminole a few hours ago. Never did see that security guard coming at them from the right. She, screaming, falling. He draping her over his shoulder. Guns blaring. Her blood lopping warmly, softly down his chest as he ran for the car. Guess it didn't really matter too much now. He would've followed her anywhere. He would've done anything for her.

He turned off the radio and rolled up the window. All quiet in the car, save for sounds of rain and her in the back seat breathing faintly. Body pulsing. A brief matching of breaths between them. Bodies aligned like distant planets. Needed to find a hospital soon. Christ, how would he even begin to explain all of this? All of this blood, all of this money, all of this love. He reached back and brushed his hand along her cheek, then drew it back to his own face, breathing in. That same smell. Cotton candy, sawdust, and sweat. That same smell that attracted him in the first place. Christ, how would he even begin to explain all of this?